BEIJING, June 22 (Reuters) - China urged the United States on Wednesday to leave the South China Sea dispute to the claimant states, saying that U.S. involvement may make the situation worse, its most direct warning to Washington in recent weeks.
Tensions in the South China Sea have risen in the past month on concerns that China is becoming more assertive in its claim to waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Part of the waters are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai urged the United States to keep out of the dispute and said China was greatly concerned by frequent provocations by other parties in the South China Sea.
China’s claim is by far the largest, forming a large U-shape over most of the sea’s 648,000 square miles (1.7 million square km), including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
Navy ships from Vietnam and China held a two-day joint patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnamese state media reported on Tuesday, in a sign that tension over the disputed maritime border may be easing. (Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing Alex Richardson)